Wednesday, May 2, 2007


People have been calling me names all my life. It started before I could even walk. Neighbors asked my father what they were going to name the baby. He said they would name me after my Grandfather. As everyone called him "Whistling John", I became "Little John". Even though it is not my real name; my sister, 60 years later, still calls me"John".

In school they called me the "Professor", not so much because I knew everything, but because I thought I did. Not sure it was meant as a compliment. Later as my voice started to change and they called me "Squeaky". My voice sometimes would crack and often only dogs could hear it.
The military is well known for giving people nicknames and I was no exception. My first military pseudonym was "The Animal". I got that label when I was handling military prisoners assigned to the "Hard Labor"Detachment. My predecessor was attacked and crippled by inmates. I got the job while training troops at Fort Gordon Georgia. I had two attempts on my life but refused to compromise with criminals. I worked there two years and never got a scratch.

When I was assigned to the Army's Officer Training program. I had vastly more experience and higher rank than any of the other students. My fellow students hung the irreverent title of "JC" on me. According to them, they gave me the name because only He and I were "never wrong". Again, I am not sure it was meant as a compliment. More affectionately, the troops I trained at Fort Bragg North Carolina called me "Bad News Hews". They even had T-shirts made, for the entire platoon, with that name blazing across the front.

I eventually got a job as a nightclub bouncer. During the next few years, I was called many names, but the only one I can repeat in mixed company is "Kojak". I attained a certain level of local fame, so when I opened my own business, I kept the nickname. Using "Kojak", I ran a successful local business, wrote for two newspapers, appeared on local TV and radio and even had a successful Ebay business. The truth be known, I never liked the "Kojak" 70's TV show or Telly Savalas. Now, that the "new" Kojak is black; my nickname must really confuse some people.

While I briefly worked at Foundation High School as Superintendent, the students called me "Sir James". I realize this is a Filipino student's style of respect provided to me because of my job, not actually a nickname. I have been gone from Foundation High School for over a year, but those students still refer to me as "Sir James".

Yesterday, I was travelling the Valencia road on my red motorcycle. Students from that local public high school were walking home. As I passed, I was greeted with a chorus of "Hi, Sir James". I have never been called a "name" that touched me more. Thank you my young friends, I appreciate your support and respect. I honor you. In my many years teaching around the world, I have never seen a group of students who have had more talent or more ability than you. All you need to do is believe in yourself and never give up. Dream big and live your dreams.

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